An adult disabled before age 22 may be eligible for “child’s” benefits if a parent is deceased or starts receiving retirement or disability benefits. Social Security considers this a “child’s” benefit because it is paid on a parent’s Social Security earnings record.
The “adult child”—including an adopted child, or, in some cases, a stepchild, grandchild, or step grandchild—must be unmarried, age 18 or older, and have a disability that started before age 22.
This can be a way for a disabled younger child who was on SSI to switch to a potentially higher benefit, drawing on a parent’s work record. Or sometimes a disability such as mental illness or other situation that has been managed by family members exacerbates with age, or a parent who has been caring for a disabled child dies.
Example: A worker starts collecting Social Security retirement benefits at age 62. He has a 38-year old son who has had cerebral palsy since birth. The son will start collecting a disabled “child’s” benefit on his father’s Social Security record.